Friday, October 03, 2008

The Shape of Mercy and Giveaway

Susan Meissner's newest book, The Shape of Mercy, is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, mystery and romance. Set in present day Santa Barbara and also in colonial America during the Salem Witch Trials, the book follows a young college student as she transcribes the diary of a young woman falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692.

I am currently reading this book and love it. I've often heard people talk about Susan's skill with words, and this book emphasizes that. It's the third book of hers that I've read. Each has been unique, but I love the way this story is woven together. And the mix of current day and old journal is beautifully told -- it works without jarring.

"The story in a nutshell is this," Susan says. "Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her growing up years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge other people by what they want to believe about them, and particularly for her, how the poor view the wealthy. When she opts out of her family's financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an 83-year-old reclusive East Coast transplant. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, hanged for witchcraft in 17th-century Massachusetts. The lives of these two very different women converge as they jointly piece together the life - and death - of a third woman, Mercy Hayworth, who lived three hundred years earlier, and who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost."

Susan says the title has dual meaning. "Those who testified against the accused in Salem in 1692 often claimed their tormentors "took shape" in their bedrooms and tortured them as they slept. My fictional character Mercy was also accused of taking shape and torturing another young girl of the Village. She was innocent of course, as all those accused were, but in her last act before death, she shows that love has a shape. And its shape is mercy."

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and offered these insights. "Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth-a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials-whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers-Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren "Lars" Durough, wealthy, earnest and
young-become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller."

Susan says the concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with her long after she finished it. "I know I am often guilty of the same weakness my protagonist had to discover - and admit - about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance. But it happens often enough to know I might have easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I might've said nothing when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang.

We tend to fear what we can't comprehend. And we tend to understand only what we want to. There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn't garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death. I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we're worth - even if it means we give up everything for it. It wasn't all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem. There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good."

You can learn more about Susan and her books at The book is available at bookstores everywhere and online.

If you would like to be entered in a drawing for this book, leave a comment. I have two copies to give away, so be sure to leave a comment. If there are more than 15 comments, I'll pull two winners.


blueviolet said...

I just heard of this book this past week and it sounds incredibly interesting. I'd love to be entered into your drawing. Thanks!

Lindsey said...

I would so love to read this - the whole idea has me wanting to get hold of this book right now! Thanks for the giveaway!

ladyufshalott at

Carly said...

this looks like a book both me and my mom would love, please enter me!

fecarly1 at yahoo dot com

Yan said...

Sounds so amazing, I just have to read it!


Jessica said...

Oooh ooh! I have to read this!! I'm reading the Rachael Flynn mysteries and I sooo want to read this!!! Please enter me!!! BTW I loved the video of the awards!

Crystal M. said...

I've seen this book mentioned on a couple of others blogs. I'd love to win a copy. Please enter me in your drawing.
~Crystal M.

Janna said...

This book looks amazing - I would love to be entered for the drawing!

ryanx6 at msn dot com

ps - I bought 2 copies of Captive Dreams at Bible Supply today - I can't believe they have them already!!!

bigguysmama said...

I haven't read any of Susan's books yet and I'd love to be entered to win. Thanks!


mnjesusfreak at gmail dot com

Abi said...

I'd love to be entered in your drawing
ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Patty said...

I love Susan's books and would love to read this one also.


Donna M said...

I look forward to reading this one. Please enter me in your contest.


windycindy said...

What a lovely sounding story line. I have not read any books by this author. Please enter me in your delightful book drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

Carole said...

I have heard that Susan's books are wonderful, and "The Shape of Mercy" would be a great way to start. Thank you for the giveaway.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Dawn said...

Count me in.

Jolene said...

Enter me in the contest-sounds very interesting

stampedwithgrace said...

this books soounds great! please enter me :)

lisa said...

Oh, I'd love to win this's such an interesting subject and the reviews make it so intriguing!

ldneuhof at hotmail dot com

mrs.mommyy said...

very interesting website and review

RAnn said...

I'd like to enter the drawing

Ruthjoec at aol dot come


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